WITH profits falling, the amount of cargo passing through the port decreasing and individual pay packets for top bods hitting close on a quarter of a million, it makes perfect sense for the Port of Cork to flog the family silver. Or, in this case, the few remaining examples of Georgian architecture (1714-1830) of which the onetime City of Culture can boast: namely, the Custom House and bonded warehouses on Lapps Island that were built between 1810 and 1819.
The unique set of historic Port of Cork buildings are located where the two channels of the River Lee recombine (access from Custom House Street). According to John Adams, the distinguished artist now resident in Cork and Cobh, they are the most prominent and visually-attractive buildings in the city, and were constructed during the Napoleonic Wars by prisoners from Spike Island.
He says the site and buildings should not have gone into private ownership and that the sale was ‘a disgrace.’ The area was of international and local interest and could have had a civic role as the repository of the city’s maritime heritage. Development as a maritime museum, combined with it being a future base for ferries bringing people up and down the River Lee, and for visits to Spike Island, would have been the best approach.
He’s launched a signature-petition to outlaw a proposed skyscraper that is planned for the site and, to judge by the response, several thousand Leesiders agree with his point of view.
The citizens are concerned at what lies ahead for remarkable buildings that are part and parcel of historic Cork, and they want the Custom House and bonded warehouses to be taken into public ownership in case something awful happens to them.
The purchasers are two Kerry property developers, Kevin and Donal O’Sullivan, who made their bobs in the United States. They plan to build a 40-storey skyscraper on the site and point to their proven track record in major construction projects, such as at the Twin Towers site where their company poured the foundation concrete for the National Memorial and Museum.
The Ballinskelligs lads bought the Cork site for €5m (the original asking price, according to property agents, was €7m) and authorities plan to invest the recently-acquired largesse in the new €100m shipping container terminal at Ringaskiddy, which will include the Port of Cork headquarters.
But the 40-story skyscraper plan already is a cause of concern. Should it get the go-ahead, it will be the tallest building in Ireland, surpassing even the monstrous 17-storey Elysian tower up the road. According to Mr Adams, the gargantuan skyscraper will obscure the historic port buildings from sight.
Interestingly, some city officials are quick to emphasise the fact that a 40-storey skyscraper would be in contravention of zoning regulations for the area. Put simply, they say the site is not zoned for ‘tall building development,’ although it has zoning for ‘commercial purposes.’
What’s more, historic buildings on the site are ‘protected or listed structures,’ including the dressed limestone Custom House and, according to City Hall, any change to the area would require an Environmental Impact Statement and planning approval.
At the moment the proposed in-your-face skyscraper is only at the design stage but, if granted planning permission, local FG politicos are sure it would stimulate interest in the Cork Docklands Plan and attract investors to the city’s north and south quays.
Minister Simon Coveney, for instance, is excited at the prospect of the skyscraper uniting other planned developments on the city’s north and south docks. He excitedly told the local media that ‘the scale of ambition and design will “blow people away” and create a Cork “wow” factor. It will prove “a real draw to the city”.’
Good for him, although artist John Adams and the thousands of Leesiders who support his save-our-heritage campaign might not be filled with such extravagant and unbalanced fervour!
Knocking Mary Lou
And now for something different: The political establishment can’t get its head around the fact that Sinn Féin has become a major political force in 26-county politics.
Most people expect some sort of SF coalition with another party after the next general election but the Soldiers of Destiny leader, Mickey Martin, is not of that mind. Nor, for that matter, is FG’s Vlad the Impaler.
Their recent comments regarding the election of Mary Lou McDonald as president of Sinn Féin were remarkable for a similarity in tone and sentiment. They directed a pseudo-macho, unconcealed nastiness at their parliamentary associate which they would not have used had McDonald been a member of another party.
As if reading directly from the Indo/Sindo, the two buckos attempted to out-do one another in belittling her success. Mickey said she was a ‘good soldier’ who defended the indefensible but ‘to a large extent she was a prisoner of the SF narrative.’ There was no democracy in her party, which still hadn’t distanced itself from IRA atrocities, he sneered.
Vlad was more brutal. He demanded that the incoming SF president ‘break with the celebration of violence at triumphalist commemorative events.’
At that we caught our breath. We wondered if the great man had forgotten the litany of 1916 commemorative events that his government had organised in every town in Ireland: the commemorations in Glasnevin cemetery, the military parades down O’Connell Street; the honouring of Michael Collins, a very successful assassin who later had half his brain blown away at Béal na mBláth.
All of which celebrated ‘violence’ in some way or another; all of which were ‘triumphalist’ and a celebration of national independence!
But what really had us falling around the kitchen was the rib-tickling moment when Vlad, spluttering and red-faced, got to the point of his spiel. Presumably making an explosive sound through his nose to express indignation and derision, he uttered this profound assessment of Ms McDonald’s party: it was … wait for it … ‘nationalist’!
The finest and most superior insult that ever could be thrown at Sinn Féin: nationalist! One is in awe at the Taoiseach’s linguistic abilities.
The expression of thoughts, concepts and feelings of the other fella, Mickey, is somewhat more complex because as a mudguard for FG it is incumbent on him to convey pleased surprise at Mr Vlad’s thoughts and deeds.
Sometimes that’s a difficult thing to do, even for an obliging politician such as Mr Martin.
Nonetheless, the bitchiness towards Ms McDonald was illustrative of a scrupulous attention to the use of language. Indeed, it was not too dissimilar to the way the Waterford Fine Gael ex-councillor and blogger, Henry Gusset, employs the Queen’s English.
Recently, he corrected Trump for having said ‘shit-hole countries,’ advising that the grammatically correct term is ‘turd-world countries.’ How lucky are we to have such scholarly politicos!